Say goodbye to the traditional textbook

I remember donating plasma to help pay for my college textbooks. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t come close to covering it these days. According to U.S. PIRG, students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks. Students are tired of being strong-armed at the bookstore, and plenty of companies are helping to do something about it. The unnecessary rise in costs for textbooks and the traditionally slow- moving textbook industry are being tested by alternative models for textbook distribution and consumption. No one is totally sure what method will stick, but the ones that do are likely to make wheel barrows full of money and relieve a lot of pressure for students and parents.

Here are some companies that are experimenting with new ways to deliver textbook and other educational content and helping to lower the cost of higher education:

Textbooks

Chegg www.chegg.com – Allows students to rent their book for class at a discount of more that 50% and have it delivered to their door. Students can rent books for the semester and ship them back for free when they are done. There is also an option for students to extend their rental period or buy the book should they choose to do so. Oh, and Chegg plants a tree for every book rented.

CourseSmart www.coursesmart.com Offers digital versions of traditional textbooks from some of the major publishers in the industry such as: McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Wiley. These materials are viewable online or can be downloaded. The book prices are reduced significantly from the printed versions found in the campus bookstore. Students using this service tout the joy of not having to lug around heavy books for class anymore.

Textbook Media www.textbookmedia.com – Works directly with publishers and authors to offer their textbooks and study guides online through a web-based book reader. The books are adopted by professors and assigned to their students for the semester. The books are offered free to students through sponsorships (think PBS underwriting) from national brands that want to help lower the cost of education. Paid upgrades with no advertising are also available. (In full disclosure, Campus Media works closely with this company to create custom sponsorships for national brands.)

Aplia www.aplia.com A software brand owned by one of the country’s largest textbook publishers (Cengage) has put its money behind engaging students through online homework assignments, problem sets, tutorials, and interactive market experiences to complement textbook content. Paid access (about $60) to these online exercises provides instant feedback to the student and professors to better understand what is resonating with students and what isn’t. The real-world applications help students deepen their understanding of concepts covered in the textbook.

Flat World Knowledge www.flatworldknowledge.com - An open-source textbook provider that provides online textbooks in a reader to students free of charge. Professors are able to customize the book by rearranging chapters, removing or adding text, and other customization. Students pay for premium PDF upgrades for printing, audio files and interactive web quizzes. Earlier this year, Flat World Knowledge received $8 million in Series A funding to help grow its offerings.

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About Jason Bakker

Jason Bakker is a native Minnesotan and has been working in the area of youth marketing for nearly a decade. He currently works with Minneapolis based Campus Media Group as the Director of Marketing and is responsible for following trends in the ever-changing landscape of youth culture and media usage, and for consulting advertising agency and national brand professionals on how to develop integrated marketing programs that reach college youth.

3 thoughts on “Say goodbye to the traditional textbook

  1. The real question though is when are they going to do away with paper based textbooks and move to completely electronic versions.

  2. i am all for people saving money, and perhaps textbooks are way too expensive in their current form. but always remember, when you put downward pressure on a textbook’s profitability, you also put downward pressure on how much time and effort can be expended on writing that textbook. if people can’t make money selling textbooks they will either stop, or will have to find sponsors. you want a chemical engineering textbook paid for by exxon? anatomy books paid for by health insurance companies? they would be free . . .

  3. College tuition is high enough and students and parents already pay a lot of money for college classes. On top of tuition is the cost of class materials and textbooks. Textbook renting allows students to save time, money and stress. And you don’t have to worry about your books collecting dust on a bookshelf after the class is over. More and more online booksellers are offering textbook rental and the benefits are endless.

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